The central government will reject any request from the Tokyo metropolitan government to allow officials to land on the Senkaku Islands, a decision made apparently to prevent tensions from increasing with China.
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he was considering dispatching officials for a preliminary inspection ahead of his government’s planned purchase of the islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
He expressed confidence that the central government, which is currently renting the islands from a landowner in Saitama Prefecture, would cooperate in allowing the inspection to be carried out.
But the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided to turn down such requests.
"Since the prime minister has announced the central government's intention to purchase the islands, there is no longer a reason to approve a landing by metropolitan government officials," a high-ranking government official said.
Noda recently confirmed that the central government plans to acquire the islands of Uotsurijima, Minami-Kojima and Kita-Kojima in the East China Sea. The central government currently manages the three islands through a rental agreement with the owner that expires in March. In principle, only central government officials are allowed to land on those islands.
One reason behind the central government’s interest in buying the islands is to keep Ishihara, who has repeatedly infuriated China, out of the picture.
Concerns about a fraying of Japan-China relations could also be behind the Noda administration’s refusal to allow officials of Ishihara’s government to land on the islands.
At a July 11 meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said, "It will be important to manage the islands in a calm and stable manner."
The central government has refused to allow other local government officials from landing on the islands.
In 2010, officials of the Ishigaki municipal government, which has jurisdiction over the Senkaku Islands, submitted a request to land for an inspection to determine the property tax amount. However, the central government turned down the request on the grounds that no one besides central government officials would be allowed on the islands.
It remains unclear if the owner of the islands will agree to sell them to the central government. The owner had indicated a willingness to sell the islands to the Tokyo metropolitan government.
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